This is part 3 of the Virtual Assistant series where I’ve previously outlined what a VA does, the different types of VA’s, and how to stand out in a growing field.
Today I’m covering how to make your VA business legally legit.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or an accountant. The information that I’m providing is from my own experience and research. I encourage you to contact your Secretary of State or county clerk so that they can direct you to the proper offices for paperwork and registration and to give you advice on the appropriate entity for your business needs. I also encourage you to contact an accountant for tax-related questions.
These suggestions are for US-based businesses. If you live outside the US, please contact the proper authorities to learn what you need to do in your area to legally register your business.
Okay, now for the good stuff!
Name Your Business
First you need to name your baby (your business baby, that is!).
I’ve created a few businesses over the years, and every time I stressed out about choosing the perfect business name! It can be difficult to capture the essence of a business in just a few words, and the fact that the name also needs to be unique AND clearly explain what you do AND be able to grow with your business just adds to the pressure!
The 3 step process for crafting the perfect biz name:
- Brainstorm keywords and phrases that are relevant to your business. Go crazy and jot down any ideas, even if they seem way out there. Freewriting is a great tool to get the creative juices flowing, and it can lead to the perfect name!
- Next, use a thesaurus to come up with more words. Combine different words and create something that relates to what you do. Brainstorm 50 names then narrow it down to 2-3.
- Before you get your heart set on a particular name, go through the following checklist to make sure it’s available and the right fit for you.
Name Your Business Checklist:
- Make sure the domain name (www.yourbizname.com) is available.
- Check to see if the name is already trademarked. If so, you’ll need to come up with a different name.
- Google it. Is someone else already using it?
- Is it available on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram & LinkedIn?
- Steer clear of a name that’s too specific, like The Marketing VA, in case you change your mind or want to add additional services that have nothing to do with marketing.
- Keep your name simple, easy to understand, and spelled correctly.
- Imagine having this name in 5 years. Do you still like it? It is still relevant?
- Ask yourself, “Would my dream client like this name?”
Found a keeper? Congrats! Now go register that baby (if you’re in the U.S., contact the Secretary of State or County Clerk), sign up for all social media platforms, and purchase the domain name!
Business Entities Made Simple
Before you take on any paying clients, you’ll need to set up your business entity.
Setting up your business entity sounds complicated and scary, but it’s actually quite simple to do!
I’m going to focus on the two types that are the most common structures for VA’s: the Sole Proprietorship and Limited Liability Corporation. Each one of these have different rules, regulations, and tax laws (contact the proper authorities to learn more).
The Sole Proprietorship is the simplest way to structure a business. You and your business are considered the same for tax & legal purposes.
As the name implies, a Sole Proprietorship is a business that’s operated by one individual.
This is the most common entity new owners choose because it’s the easiest to set up.
Liability-wise, you and your business are one, so your personal assets are at risk if any lawsuits are brought against your company. Consider obtaining general liability insurance if you’re a Sole Proprietor to protect your personal assets (not required but something to look into if you want to).
Limited Liability Company
A Limited Liability Company (LLC) offers an advantage over the Sole Proprietorship: your personal assets are protected in the event of a lawsuit.
Even if you’re a one-woman show (just you, no employees or contractors) you’ll want to consider whether an LLC is right for you or not.
It’s a little more expensive than a Sole Proprietorship, but well worth it knowing your personal assets are safe (it costs me $125 a year to have an LLC).
Other things to consider to making your business legit:
- Find out if you need to obtain any licenses
- Find out if you need to register with the Dept. of Revenue (DOR)
- Open a business bank account
Do you have any questions about starting a Virtual Assistant business? Leave your comments below, I’d love to hear them!